A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, sound effects, and music.

Desert Frogsong

Posted: April 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording

[One in a series of posts from my spring 2011 trip to the southern California desert.]

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the second largest state park in the lower 48 United States. It’s dry, as its name implies, but it’s very seismically active and has many natural hot springs and oases scattered throughout the park, so water is less scarce than you’d think.

Even so, it shocked me almost beyond belief how filled some of these hot seeps were with frogs, and how loud they got at night. Sadly, I didn’t get any pictures of these tiny thumb-sized frogs, puffing out their chins to impress their ladyfriends, but I watched them for an hour with my headlamp while I recorded them from several perspectives. (Tip: Get a headlamp with a red LED or filter. This goes a long way in preserving your night vision while still illuminating nearby things like field recorder controls, and tends to spook animals less.)

Here is one long take from this session. It starts with distant frogs, one slow croaker nearby, and then gets really hopping (ugh, sorry, I had to do it) around 1 minute in. Then, after two and a half minutes, it dies down as quickly as it started.


[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, capsules at 120°]

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Rattling Window Pane

Posted: April 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, sound design

While this isn't the rig used for today's recording, this window's cruddy construction and age yielded some interesting sounds!

At work one day, I noticed that a large truck on the street was causing one of our single-pan glass windows to rattle. I whipped out my Sony PCM-D50 and captured some of it – that’s today’s sound you can hear below.

The audio quality of this clip isn’t great (lots of bleed from outside noises, but hey, it’s a cruddy old window – and that’s why it was rattling like that!), but it brought to mind an interesting idea: Windows rattling in their casements are pretty strange sounding, and it is a sound I’ve not heard used in films (or if it has been, it’s rare and I don’t recall consciously hearing it before). It struck me as an interesting idea for future sound design in buildings under stress, or just for creepy interiors. I did a lot of shaking of the window manually, but nothing quite captured the high-speed rattle of this original recording, so I hung onto it for a reference.

It’s a craptastic recording, though. But it just goes to show you that sometimes pressing the “Record” button might not give you the cleanest sound, but can still capture a reference sound that you can try to emulate, re-use in different ways, or to suggest whole new concepts that you might not have considered before. In this case, it made me realize what parts of buildings might have deteriorated when they get to be a certain age, which can help to inform the design of such ambiences or effects in the future.


[Sony PCM-D50 recorder, 90° capsule spread]

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